It's one of the deadliest cancers and yet, you might not even realize you have it or that you're at risk...
The American Cancer Society estimates that this year, we'll see more than 42,000 new cases of liver cancer. And about 30,000 folks will die from this extremely deadly form of cancer.
Even though overall cancer rates have dropped, liver cancer cases are increasing every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") expects an increase of nearly 50% in new liver-cancer cases between 2010 and 2020.
Today, we want to revisit one of the common causes of liver cancer... one that millions of Americans could have.
I'm talking about hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is one type of the liver disease hepatitis (from the Greek hepat-, meaning liver, and -itis, meaning inflamed). The other types of the virus are A and B.
Overall, hepatitis causes symptoms like:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Yellow eyes or skin
However, most types of hepatitis usually don't cause any symptoms until you already have severe liver damage. Without treatment, you're at risk of cirrhosis, or permanent scarring of your liver... which can cause liver failure and liver cancer.
Hepatitis A comes from consuming food or beverages with the virus in it. This usually happens when feces contaminate the food or water. Hepatitis A is rare in the U.S., and your body fights it off in about three months.
Hepatitis B spreads through sex, sharing needles, and direct contact with infected bodily fluids (like blood). It usually lasts about six months but can remain in your system for much longer. You can even have it and not show any symptoms.
Hepatitis C spreads through sharing needles, direct contact with bodily fluids, and unprotected sex. It can also pass from mother to child during pregnancy. It can last anywhere from six months to the rest of your life.
However, research in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal showed that folks in the Baby Boomer generation can also blame hospital errors for higher rates of the disease. That's because doctors didn't use disposable needles until the late '50s and early '60s.
Clinicians pinpointed the largest spread of hepatitis C to 1950. That's when doctors washed, disinfected, and reused needles. But sometimes disinfecting didn't kill the hepatitis C virus.
It also means doctors and hospitals unknowingly exposed Baby Boomers to diseases when they were infants or toddlers. It wasn't until 1992 that we began thorough disease screening on blood used for transfusions.
For years, the Baby Boomer generation made up most of the hepatitis C cases. But a recent report from the CDC shows that it's now affecting more generations.
The report stated that in 2018, the new cases broke down like this:
- Baby Boomers (mid-50s to early 70s): 36%
- Generation X (late 30s to early 50s): 23%
- Millennials (20s and 30s): 36%
So no matter your age, don't ignore your risk for hepatitis C. About 60% to 70% of folks will get chronic liver disease, up to 20% will get cirrhosis, and about 1% to 5% of folks will die from either cirrhosis or liver cancer. And with the death rate from hepatitis rising, we'll likely see even more deaths in the coming years.
That's why getting tested is so important.
Researchers wrote in Clinical Infectious Diseases that expanding age-based testing could lead to an additional 280,000 folks cured. It's a one-time test done with a simple blood draw.
So let me put this simply: Get tested. Don't wait. If caught early, treatment is simple – medication cures about 90% of all cases.
But if you don't catch it, you could find yourself with serious liver damage and possibly liver cancer. Don't fall victim to this deadly cancer... Make your appointment for testing today.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: The FDA just approved a weight-loss treatment for the first time in years.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
June 8, 2021